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Bruce Dowbiggin

Connor, Johnny, Auston: You’ve Got To Have Hart

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Among the slimmest volumes of the past 30 years is Great Canadian NHL Champions. As most suffering fans of the seven Canadian-based NHL teams know, no Canadian club has won a Stanley Cup since 1993.

Just five teams have even gotten to the Final: Vancouver (1994/ 2011), Calgary (2004), Ottawa (2006), Edmonton (2007) and Montreal (2021). They all lost. (You can make a point that the transplanted Quebec Nordiques won the Cup in Colorado in 1996 and 2001, but it’s a lame argument.)

As the 2022 postseason begins, however, there are two bonafide contenders— Toronto/ Calgary—  to win the Cup and a third— Edmonton— with a puncher’s chance. Of course. these dreams can collapse for any number of reasons. In 2004 and 2011, the Flames and Canucks simply ran out of healthy bodies. As we wrote in an earlier column, goaltending can also trip up a team.

What’s just as interesting as the Canadian Cup chase will be the contest for the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player to his team. In the years since Patrick Roy led the Habs to the 1993 championship, going 10-0 in OT games, there has not been a year with a trio of Canadian-based players like this.

Toronto’s Auston Matthews. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau.. (Ironically two of three are Americans on Canadian teams.) They’re key reasons why their teams have a chance at the Cup.

The Toronto media has— surprise— already anointed Maple Leafs captain Matthews as the putative winner. And Lord knows what the Toronto media decides instantly becomes gospel. Matthews has no doubt had a remarkable year, and deserves a lot of credit. Bookies love him too at an inflated -345.

Besides being the star of the team in the largest Canadian market, Matthews’ claim rests largely on being the top goal scorer in the NHL. His 58 goals in 71 games (all totals through 25/04) are just three more than his nearest competitor (Leon Draisaitl). He did manage a historic 51 of his goals in a 50-game span. But pure goal scoring is the only significant stat in which Matthews leads: his nine game-winning goals trail Draisaitl by two. And his 15 power-play goals trail Draisaitl by nine.

Matthews also trails McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer, by 14 points, albeit with six fewer games played. Gaudreau leads him overall by 11 points. Gaudreau, meanwhile, currently sits third in league scoring behind McDavid and Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau; he stakes his claim to the Hart based on some extraordinary plus/ minus statistics. With three games to play Gaudreau is a stunning plus-61; only his linemate Matthew Tkachuk  is even remotely close at plus-55. McDavid is plus-27. Matthews an ordinary plus-18.

He not only scored but his line kept opponents from scoring. Okay, generic plus/ minus can be overrated. But there is real value in Gaudreau’s leading his challengers with 86 even-strength points. (This from a player Flames fans wanted traded a year ago). McDavid and Matthews are tied at 76.

While Matthews’ has 15 PPG, McDavid’s has 9 PPG followed by Gaudreau has a modest 6 PPG. Gaudreau has managed these numbers while playing less than his rivals. His ice time is just 18:28. Matthews logs 20:33. McDavid plays a whopping 22:08 per game.

McDavid may have been the best player in the NHL the past half-decade (he’s won two Harts already), but his team has held him back come playoff time. This year he and Draisaitl have grabbed the underachieving Oilers by the scruff and made a late surge to a playoff spot.

All three could end up watching Huberdeau, a Canadian playing on an American team, carry off the Hart— especially if Canadian voters split the vote. The Florida Panthers star is second in scoring and leads the league in assists and may be the best playmaker on the runaway Eastern Conference leaders.

Who to bet on? Matthews is the favourite at -345 to win his first Hart Trophy. At +400, two-time winner Connor McDavid is the second favourite. Gaudreau is closing the gap, now at +1600. Remember that voting is due before the playoffs, so a bad postseason cannot hurt a Hart contender nor can it help a dark horse. Our vote in a narrow contest goes to Gaudreau.

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The sad passing of Guy Lafleur this week brought forth many memories of his greatness as a player. But as we noted in Inexact Science (brucedowbigginbooks.com) The Flower was considered something of a bust in his first few NHL seasons. After scoring “just” 27 goals in his rookie year, he was overshadowed by No.2 selection Marcel Dionne and No. 5 pick Rick Martin.

(He) may have had one more tally and just seven fewer points than Dionne, but it was the perception that mattered also. And the perception was that Lafleur didn’t match up to his draft “adversary.” Making matters worse was that Buffalo’s number five overall pick, Rick Martin, achieved the heights Lafleur supposedly should have reached in 1971–72 by amassing an NHL rookie record 44 goals—still tied today as the seventh-highest such total in league history… Even though he was the odds-on favourite for Rookie of the Year when training camp had rolled around, Lafleur wasn’t even a finalist for the award. The dashing of these rather lofty expectations naturally begat skepticism of Lafleur’s greatness. 

To the exasperation of Habs fans, Lafleur’s closest peers continued to outdo him in every way but in championship rings. Dionne avoided any sophomore jinx by posting 90 and 78 points in the next two campaigns, compared to Lafleur’s 56 and 55, while Martin reeled off 37- and 52-goal campaigns to show his freshman output had been no beginner’s luck. To add insult, even the number 10 pick of 1971, Steve Vickers—debuting for the Rangers in 1972—reeled off back-to-back 30-goal seasons to start off his career. When Lafleur bottomed out with only 21 goals in his third NHL season, 1973–74, there were whispers that maybe he was just a fluke, a flash-in-the-pan who peaked too early, spoiled by the weaker defences of the junior game and perhaps too mentally fragile to handle the immense pressure of being the next supposed legend in Canadiens lore.

The next year Lafleur ditched his tea-pot helmet and embarked on a brilliant career with three Art Ross scoring titles, three Hart Trophies, three Pearson Awards and one Conn Smythe—but he also shared in team success by winning five Stanley Cups and four Prince of Wales Trophies. Adieu, Guy

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Californication Of Toronto: Urban Nowhere

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Last weekend I talked on the phone with my broadcasting friend Andrew Krystal about the state of Toronto— including his beloved Maple Leafs. Little did I know it was to be our final conversation; Andrew died just a few minutes after as he walked home in Yorkville.

In his inimitable way Andrew had been giving me the gears for criticizing Toronto after I’d spent so many years there. “You made your name here. You are a product of Toronto,” he pointed out above the din in a local Toronto bar.

Indeed I was a product of the Toronto I left behind in 1998. As I told him, that Toronto— the Little City That Could—is long gone. Replaced by something… else. As we shouted to make ourselves heard I told him that Toronto now reminds me of the California nightmare described in a recent Matt Taibbi piece on Substack. “California is what happens when new money becomes old money.”

Taibbi quoted Swedish writer Malcom Keune: “California shifted mid century from being the US’s fastest-growing state — 50% population growth between 1950 and 1960 — to a state that is somehow, improbably, shrinking… mostly because of the regulations the state’s inhabitants put in place that block the housing that’s required to support California’s economic success. As a result, California has lost the “technology” of being able to affordably house its inhabitants… 

To use a California literary reference, that meant no more living off the “fat of the land,” for with the well of plenty drying, even elites are now forced to feed off each other. In such a society, he wrote, “belligerence is not a choice,” and “you need to dispossess others” to get ahead, because “not doing so means losing your own way of life.”

The Diaspora of middle-class Californians to Texas, Montana, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado and elsewhere has been mirrored by the thousands of successful businesses such as Tesla, Oracle, Hewlitt-Packard and many more also leaving the state, taking with them tens of thousands of excellent jobs. Leaving behind a titled elite and a serving class— many just arrived in the state.

The desire to make California a morally pure progressive paradise has turned into open drug use on streets, collapsing infrastructure and sclerotic one-party rule.  “California announced a high-speed train in 1996 and the current plan is for service on the L.A-San Francisco line to begin in 2033. One executive I spoke with described the state’s development as “frozen in aspic.”

One reason is strangulation by bureaucracy. “Institutions everywhere are filling up with employees bearing skills “orthogonal” to the bureaucratic mission,” Kyeyune writes, “part of what’s been packaged as progress but feels more like a vast jobs program for otherwise unemployable pseudo-intellectuals. “Hire us, pay us, give us and our clients sinecures at your expense, “or we will make life difficult for you.”

As I told Andrew, “It doesn’t take a great leap to see these descriptions applying to Toronto as it came into its new status as a progressive cosmopolitan haven.” The Toronto of today, like California, is moving forward and backward at the same time. A champion in its day for fighting apartheid in South Africa, the same city now proudly celebrates segregated commencement sessions .

The source of Toronto’s entitlement was the stopping of the Spadina Expressway in the 1970s, the singular NIMBY resistance to growing the city at the expense of leafy neighbourhoods. Since then attempts to move newcomers around the heart of privilege have produced gridlock.

The result? Stratospheric housing prices in a city that resisted growth even as it imported hundreds of thousands to serve as its worker drones. The basic roof-over-one’s-head now is exclusive to aging Boomers squatting on their cashboxes while their children and newcomers move two hours away (if lucky) or mortgage themselves to the real-estate lottery.

Like Hollywood, Toronto’s hip class is besotted by Woke culture. Instead of Hollywood, Toronto is an IT factory married to media elites. But this success a two-edged sword for liberals— as California discovered. The Golden State “began to worry about how to balance the proceeds of its mastery of lowbrow markets with the desire of its most influential inhabitants to maintain reputations for the latest in progressive attitudes”.

Toronto’s IT culture has opinions; they’re just all virtually the same. None may say a negative word for fear of being banished to Barrie or London or (gasp) Alberta to find a living. It is a self-imposed gag order.

Exit strategies? Like California, Toronto’s business Diaspora to its suburbs and beyond has been replaced by a tax base resting on rapacious condo construction and gentrification. Its attempts to replace cars with rapid transit, such as the Eglinton subway project, mirror California’s rapid-rail project. No one in office wants to make hard decisions about the Gardiner Expressway, so they put off the inevitable.

Once a bastion of security, Toronto’s street crime is blighting the city. No wonder the middle class is cashing out its homes and heading to Northern Ontario, PEI, Alberta and the U.S.

Like the California elite in Silicon Valley, Toronto’s Family Compact has shown its survival skills in the Trudeau years, returning Captain Blackface to power on three occasions in a Faustian bargain to preserve its status. With the reality sleeping on homeless sidewalks, Toronto’s nomenklatura moved “to dispossess others” to get ahead, because not doing so meant losing their own way of life.

The accelerator for decline has been the gelding of its media. With government now pumping billions into media based in the city, there is a homogeneity of thought in coverage. Reporters who were once independent and cranky now see their best interests served in building echo chambers for the government/ corporate crowd. In California there are at least some people such as Taibbi defying the Media Party directives. For how long not one knows.

I will miss Andrew but in many respects. I’m just glad he won’t be around to see what will  happen to the city where he was raised and where he revelled in the last days of old Toronto.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Big Can Be Beautiful. It Can Also Take Your Life

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When we go to our local swimming pool there is ample evidence of the fat of the land (including your correspondent). The display of plus-sized pork among our fellow swimmers (most 50+) is breathtaking. The Parnassus of lard has to be the 60-ish gentleman who wears a Speedo on his 375-pound-plus body as he swims laps. We assume there’s a Speedo in there somewhere, captured by rolling mounds of cellulite on his glutes.

While alarming to see so many who’ve lost the battle to fat, at least these souls are making the attempt to stay healthy. God bless them. When we see them lower themselves into the pool we have to wonder at those who’ve completely given up on the concept of a healthy figure. How do they live?

The notion of what constitutes a beautiful body is in the news again as Sports Illustrated featured plus-sized model Yumi Nu on the cover of its annual swimsuit edition. The swimsuit edition is the annual display of beautiful female bodies that traditionally sent nuns and librarians into a censorship fury worthy of Twitter. (And found its way between the mattresses of teenaged boys.)

In what is clearly Woke symbolism, Time Warner’s magazine is attempting to placate another stigmatized group— plus-sized women— by displaying Nu in all her rounded beauty. “See, it’s normal to be wearing XXX-sized clothing” is the message. (The magazine also features Elon Musk’s mother and four NBA models in the edition).

This comes at a time when plus-sized rapper Cardi B has made highly sexualized twerking a thing in her graphic videos. It seems to now be hip to placate people who’ve lost the battle against Cheetos in a masturbatory celebration of a blubbery freedom.

Canadian author/ psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson spoke for those not amused by SI’s project. “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that. It’s a conscious progressive attempt to manipulate & retool the notion of beauty, reliant on the idiot philosophy that such preferences are learned and properly changed by those who know better.”

But there was a cascade of approval for SI’s choice, recognizing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many found Nu stunning and sexy. Feminists applauded her acceptance of bodaciousness.  Fair enough.

Two quibbles. One small and the other massive. First— this will be lost on feminists— the SI Swimsuit edition was created in the 1960s to defeat a stereotype that fit sportswomen were tomboys, unattractive and vaguely butch. In their own way, the early SI models destroyed those stereotypes while pleasuring hetero men. They convinced women that muscles aren’t a bringdown.

The more significant point— lost on SI and Time Warner— is that the time of Covid, with its choked hospitals and healthcare system, is hardly the moment to celebrate people who exceed their body-fat index. In fact it might be described as a reckless message that allows people with hereditary or cultural vulnerability to diabetes, stroke and heart attacks to put off weight reduction.

As we wrote last October, obesity is the silent killer of millions infected with the virus. But one buried by governments, media and health authorities who decided to make vaccine-resisters the real villain of the piece.

“Friends and neighbours we have thought otherwise sane are now seriously demanding that unvaccinated people be sent to the back of the line for health care till all the vaccinated people are satisfied. This triage is equal measures of fear, spite and blithering ignorance of the facts of single-payer health. 

Take this example: one of the factors established very early in the pandemic was the vulnerability of obese and morbidly obese— especially in the elderly. The AMA reports, “The vast majority—78%—of U.S. patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were overweight or had obesity. The numbers for intensive care, invasive mechanical ventilation and death were nearly the same.”

According to the CDC, 42.4 percent of U.S. adults have obesity.  While some are obese for genetic or disease-related reasons, the vast proportion of the obesity is lifestyle induced. The World Obesity Federation has shown that death rates from COVID-19 have been 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the population is overweight.

Yet there is no call from the media and its acolytes to punish the obese for clogging the healthcare system. No demand they be put to the back of the line. Why? Because it doesn’t suit the narrative of right-wing extremism the way that non-vaxxers do. Too many allies of Woke land— in and out of politics— would be shoved down the line if fat were targeted.

University of Oxford researchers found, ”Excess weight is a modifiable risk factor, and investment in the treatment of overweight and obesity and long-term preventive strategies could help reduce the severity of COVID-19 disease.” 

Yet when was the last time you heard Justin Trudeau or president Joe Biden suggest dropping weight to lessen the burden on healthcare? The last time would be the first time, as they have been mute on lifestyle adaptions to clear the ICUs. 

It goes the same for smokers, drinkers, drug abusers and more who— under Canada’s healthcare rulers— receive the same treatment in emergency rooms as do those who live clean. According to the howler monkeys of vaccine enforcement only non-vaxxers should be culled from the herd for flooding ICUs.”

It’s not the first time that Wokedom has stifled information contrary to their societal control. It won’t be the last. In the battle of the bulge it’s not a fashion statement. It’s a matter of life and death. It’s also a matter of saving the healthcare system.

 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

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